February Maintenance

General Maintenance

Conditions haven't changed much from January so ground maintenance will continue in the same vein but hopefully there is less water on the ground to deal with.

Keep brushing and switching greens to remove moisture, stop the spread of disease and make it easier to improve the quality of cut.

How often you mow will vary from daily to twice weekly depending on the grass growth and the standards the course manager sets. They may vary depending on local conditions, course type, expectations, sward type and mower type. The mowing heights below can be used as a guide and will depend on the weather but don't ever remove more tha one third of the grass height in each cut.

Stress the grass as little as you can at this vital time and you will reap the benefits later in the year.

Greens. Maintain mowing height at around 6-8mm.
Tees. Maintain mowing height at around 10-15mm.
Banks. Maintain mowing height at 22-30mm.
Fairways. Maintain mowing height at around 15-25mm.

Mow and tidy up rough and semi-rough areas, reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. Your mowing height will depend on the type of course and the standard of play required - during the winter, mow between 50 and 100mm.

Aerate the greens, tees and fairways when possible. Use a range of solid, hollow and slit aerators on playing surfaces as it is essential to keep greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange and ease compaction.

Inspect, weed and rake bunkers, repair any damage caused by rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to combat erosion and sand loss. If you have experienced flash floods during the recent heavy rain then your bunkers could have suffered so repair work may be required.

Check your greens, tees, flags and holes for any vandalism, which often occurs during the winter.

Holes should be changed regularly but exaclty how regularly will depend on factors such as green size, construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green itself.

When it is wet, the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crown effect and surface wear - this will be more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole may wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of golfers' feet. You might be changing the hole position three times a week when it is this wet.

Tailor your fertiliser programme to suit your grass plant's needs. There are now products available suited to aid recovery and help plants resist disease pathogens in the winter months.

Turf grasses at this time are generally dormant and growing slowly, but some greenkeepers will apply some liquid iron to keep the tutf healthy and strong. USGA greens do often need some top up feeding during the winter to ensure the green maintains its nutrient status.

Agronomy

Problems have been caused by extreme waterlogging but if you had a successful renovation late last year, the mild temperatures will have helped and the grass will have grown well.

However, the Annual Meadow-grass will be growing slowly and the disparity between the perennial species e.g. Bent and Fescue and Annual Meadow-grass is a big one.

The moist surface and low light levels can bring forth high moss levels mainly Bryum argenteum, Silver Thread Moss. This is a tufted acrocarpus moss which also thrives on tarmac so can be an indication that surfaces are compacted. As you can't get on the greens with a machine yet, there is no obvious solution in sight.

If you were to try to aerate when the ground conditions are not ready, the sides of the hole will be smeared; lateral compaction stops the water being able to percolate away from the hole.

Another problem is toadrush because there is an increased level of thatch and black layer due to current anaerobic conditions.

Aerate as much as possible, but only when conditions allow. Don't jump the gun. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Microdochium Patch and treat it as soon as you see any symptoms.

As the weather gets better give it some TLC and good quality fertiliser to help turf recover. Over a longer term, biostimulants like SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar will help soil food web recovery.

Just like they were in January, greens will be sodden and possibly saturated so the grass roots will be gasping for air. When it gets sufficienty dry, attempt to aerate - the holes will close up and it will make a big difference to recovery.

Temperatures are currently unusually high so you would be advised to use a slow release nitrogen feed to nourish a hungry sward while an iron (ferrous sulphate) feed wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Aeration is vital to your ability to keep the golf course open during the winter, especially on a heavy soil course.

As above, when you can aerate, do so and keep the programme varied. Use a wide range of solid and slit tines to keep the greens aerated, keep the tees aerated throughout the winter and aerate fairways with solid tines when you can.

Weeds, Pests & Materials

Worm activity can be common at this time, more so when it is mild. Keep an eye on the course and treat as required. Worm treatments can be carried out but think about what might be causing them to be there in the first place. pH levels, organic matter and your cultural practice could be contributing. The only available active ingredient for worm control is Carbendazim.

If you have pests such as moles, foxes and rabbits you need to identify the problem and control their activities. Approved pest control services can be called in to get rid of them.

Early morning dews, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours create conditions for outbreaks of fungal disease to occur. If you have weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism and weather conditions which favour the formation of fruiting bodies and spores (moist, wet and mild), then all the more likely they can strike.

Typical diseases that make an appearance at this time are Fusarium Patch, Red Thread and Dollar Spot.

Machinery & Materials

You should by now have almost completed servicing, repairing and overhauling your mowing equipment. It is vital to sharpen your reels and replace your bottom blades, so make sure replacement parts are in stock and readily available.

It is also now a good time to go for an early spring clean, thoroughly cleaning up mess rooms, toilets and garages. This is also good Health & Safety practice.

 
 
Dennis Mowers